If you have been fishing for any length of time, you have heard to the old adage about how the weather affects fishing conditions. Best to fish the day after a storm, you might have heard. Is there any truth to this myth. Does barometric pressure really cause fish to act differently?
In a word- YES. Changes in barometric pressure affect everything on earth, including you and me. If you have ever gotten a headache when the weather changed, you have been affected by a pressure change.
Barometric pressure is the term for the weight of the air pressing down on the earth’s surface. It is this pressure that helps keep us grounded. As humans, we are so accustomed to this constant pressure that we mostly ignore it. The only times we might notice the pressure changes are during extreme weather conditions or when we travel to or from higher altitudes.
Stable weather with long periods of clear skies and pleasant temperatures cause very little movement in barometric pressure. An incoming storm or extreme weather change such as a cold front will cause the barometer to fall below 29.6 inches of mercury (inHg), creating a low pressure zone. Not only do barometric pressure changes affect air quality, but they also cause changes in the way fish behave.
Does the barometric pressure affect crappie fishing?
Fish activity is affected by changes in barometric pressure. Smaller fish are more affected than bigger fish, and not all fish react in the same way, but the general rule is that fish will move to deeper waters and feed more slowly during a low pressure front.
So, what causes fish to be more or less active based on weather patterns? Fish contain a hollow, balloon-like air sac filled with gas, that helps them remain upright and controls their ability to rise and dive in the water. This swim bladder inflates or deflates based on the amount of air pressure pushing down on the surface of the water. In low pressure the amount of gas in the air bladder increases. As the pressure rises, the amount of gas in the air bladder decreases and the sac deflates.
This is the same principle as a scuba diver getting the bends if he rises from the depths too quickly. If the diver rises too quickly the amount of nitrogen in his bloodstream increases and causes muscle cramps and breathing problems.
Crappie fishing during a falling barometer
Fish can feel the slightest movement in air pressure and it will not only cause them to move into deeper or shallower water, but it will also change the way the fish bite. When a low pressure front is approaching the smaller fish will feel the changes first and move into deeper water. This means the bigger fish in the middle or upper sections of the water column will either need to move into deeper water or feed on any bait that is available. A fisherman can take advantage of this by crappie fishing during this period of falling pressure. Fishing success depends on making sure the fish bite. Since crappie feed by looking up at their prey, you might want to present a bobber and minnow rig or a shallow jig with light bounces.
Crappie fishing during a rising barometer
Just as fish go into a feeding frenzy in preparation for a low pressure front, they also feed more when the pressure is rising. As the atmospheric pressure starts to rise on the barometer, fish feel more comfortable and active. Fishing will be slightly better than normal, but the fish will still be in deeper waters than you might expect. To catch crappie on these days, grab a crazy colored jig head and put a wiggly tail on it. Crappie behavior doesn’t change during this weather pattern as much as smaller fish who will remain in deep water. Because the bait fish are in deep water, though, crappie will be looking for something to eat. Catch their attention. This is a great time to try out a new lure or try a new technique.
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Crappie fishing during a steady barometer
Beautiful weather for humans means sunny, clear, and warm. Typically, the air pressure is between 29.6 and 30.4 inHg on these perfect days. Fish will tend to hang in the middle depths and anglers will have to present unique bait or fishing techniques to catch their attention. Feeding patterns will be erratic at best. Lures that worked in the past might not catch anything on warm, sunny, calm days.
Crappie fishing during low pressure systems
When the barometric pressure is very low, below 29inHg, fish are uncomfortable and want to be left alone. Their swim bladders are swollen and they will move to deeper areas to try to alleviate the physical discomfort. Feeding is not something they are interested in at this time. It will be very hard to catch crappie on a rainy day or in a storm. The fish will not be active and are not likely to bite, no matter what you present.
Crappie fishing during high pressure systems
High pressure, above 30.5 inHg, means hot, dry weather. Any angler who has ever fished for crappie during the summer knows that the fish are either going to look for shade in cover or under docks, or they are going to go deep and stay there. Feeding is at a minimum and you are more likely to suffer a bite from a deerfly than a crappie. During these really hot days, fisherman can try jigging in thick cover, but the chance of a fish rising to the bite is slim to none.
Crappie fishing during and after storms
Just before or after a storm, as the old adage says, is the best time for fishing. Barometric pressure changes cause fish to eat while the feeding is good. This is especially true if the storm cools things down after a really hot spell. Crappies will bite lures or live bait. Use light tackle and a spring bobber with a minnow or a slow falling lure. Crankbaits also work in this environment.
What other factors influence crappie fishing?
Changes in barometric pressure cause crappies and other fish to move into deeper or shallower water in order to be comfortable. Anglers need to be able to match their tackle and presentation to fish activity. Other factors such as air temperature and wind can also affect crappie behavior, though.
Wind direction can affect crappie feeding patterns. Wind from the west or the south usually brings a change in pressure signalling warmer or more pleasant temperatures. This will encourage fish to become more active. These winds also push algae, plankton, and small baitfish into coves and inlets, providing a natural smorgasbord for crappie and other fish.
Wind coming from the north usually brings a cold front or falling barometer situation. Fish may be likely to bite in anticipation of this low pressure system because they know the bait will be going deeper soon.
Oxygen levels in the air are lower in extremely high pressure situations. This creates that muggy, hard to breathe feeling that makes us miserable. Crappie behavior is also affected by these high air temperatures. As a general rule, crappie bite best when the air temperature is between 68° and 82°. This is not written in stone, though, and changes in atmospheric pressure, wind direction, and water temperature can affect this.
Water temperature fluctuates with air temperature, rainfall, and wind. Fish are affected by these changes, although deep water is not as likely to experience a change as shallow water. Crappies prefer mild temperatures. When the water temperature rises above 60° they will begin to move into the shallower waters in preparation for spawning. Spawning takes place in water that is between 68 and 72°. This usually occurs in late spring and early fall. When the water temperature rises above 82°, crappies become inactive as there is less oxygen in the water and they need to conserve energy.
Final thoughts on atmospheric pressure and crappie fishing
Does barometric pressure affect crappie fishing? Yes, it does. Fish moving into deeper water during low pressure systems mean anglers get fewer bites. Fishing immediately before or after a storm that causes temperature changes can yield large numbers of bites from crappies, bass, and bream. The best fishing occurs right after a storm (unlike bass fishing) that cools things down after a really hot spell, or in the spring when warmer temperatures and rising pressure systems encourage fish into the shallows for spawning.